Travelers in search of variety should head farther along the historic Mohawk Trail, Route 2, and take a turn at the signs for the lively, artsy little town of Shelburne Falls, which is actually two towns, Shelburne and Buckland (combined pop. 1,731), facing one another across the Deerfield River. The two are linked by the Bridge of Flowers, a former electric trolley bridge that was converted to a linear display garden after the trolleys closed down in the 1920s. Four score and a few years later, there are mature trees growing out of the concrete arches. Every spring local gardeners add rich displays of annual color. The story of the trolleys is told and rides are sometimes offered at the Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum (14 Depot Rd., 413/625-9443, free), in walking distance south of the bridge.
Nearby food and beverage options include vegetarian-friendly sandwiches and espresso concoctions from the cooperatively run McCusker’s Market (3 State St., 413/625-9411), facing the south end of the iron bridge. Two candidates for best grub in town face off along Bridge Street: the homey Foxtown Diner (413/625-6606), where you can feast on a short stack of pancakes with real maple syrup or enjoy a fresh BLT with a packet of potato chips and a pickle on the side, across from the locally sourced, sustainably armed fare at Hearty Eats (413/625-6460). At the west end of the bridge, there’s a third way, the burgers and salads and beers at the West End Pub.
Ashfield and Conway
Come fall, the sugar maples in the surrounding mixed hardwood forest add a blaze of brilliant orange to the landscape, making Route 2 a favorite of leaf-peepers between the end of September and Columbus Day weekend. But if sharing the two-lane road with thousands of rubbernecking drivers becomes wearisome, consider taking a road less traveled. Almost any road will do, but a loop along Route 116 through Ashfield and Conway, a few miles south of Route 2, passes over several historic covered bridges and offers enough pastoral beauty to more than compensate for the detours.